On this day 53 years ago in Bay City, Michigan, pop royalty was born in the form of Madonna Louise Ciccone, the third child of Silvio Ciccone and her namesake mother, Madonna Louise Fortin Ciccone.
Madonna’s rise to stardom is legendary. She briefly attended the University of Michigan on a dance scholarship before dropping out to move to New York City in late 1977. She famously arrived in NYC with just $35 in her pocket and worked briefly at a Dunkin’ Donuts before taking on odd jobs as a backup dancer and model (which came back to bite her in the butt after she got famous and some nude pics taken in ’78 were published in Penthouse and Playboy in ’85).
She was playing in a NYC-based band with an ex-boyfriend when a demo landed in the hands of then-Sire Records founder Seymour Stein, who famously signed Madonna to the label from his hospital bed while recovering from a heart infection. She immediately hit the studio to record her first single, “Everybody,” which hit radio on October 6, 1982, and became a dance hit. Her self-titled debut record was released the following summer, yielding the first (“Lucky Star”) of her now-record breaking run of 37 top ten hits, more than any artist in the history of music.
The rest, as they say, is history – which we will now thoughtfully break down for you with a rundown of some of Her Madgesty’s biggest moments.
>>> October 6, 1982: Madonna’s first single, “Everybody,” is released.
>>> July 27, 1983: Madonna is released on Sire Records to positive reviews and strong radio play. “Holiday” became her first song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Lucky Star” became her first top ten hit, reaching No. 4 on Oct. 20, 1984.
>>> September 14, 1984: Madonna gives the world a taste of what the next ten years will hold with her performances of “Like A Virgin” at the first-ever MTV Video Music Awards. Clad in a skimpy wedding dress and “Boy Toy” belt, Madonna rolled around the stage and started a phenomenon. (It’s also among our Most Iconic VMA Performances. Vote now in our poll!)
>>> November 12, 1984: Madonna releases her career defining Like A Virgin album. The set’s title track gives her her first No. 1 hit and went to sell over 21 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the biggest albums ever.
>>> June 30, 1986: True Blue is released. The album gave Madonna three No. 1 hits (“Papa Don’t Preach,” “Live To Tell” and “Open Your Heart”) and two other top fives (La Isla Bonita” and “True Blue”). The album was a smash, of course, but is most notable as the first album on which Madonna co-wrote and co-produced every song – something she has done on every one of her albums since, a rarity in the pop music world.
>>> March 21, 1989: The single “Like a Prayer” is released, igniting one of Madonna’s biggest controversies. The video for the single features burning crosses, stigmata and Madonna kissing an actor playing the role of Martin de Porres, the patron saint of mixed-race people. Because of the controversy surrounding the song and video, Pepsi severed its $5 million deal with Madonna, though she kept the cash. The song reached the top of the charts on April 22, 1989, and was listed by Rolling Stone at No. 300 on its list of the Greatest Songs of All Time.
>>> April 13, 1990: “The Blond Ambition World Tour” kicks off in Japan. Madonna’s third concert tour, “Blond Ambition” hit Asia, North American and Europe over nearly five months. The tour ignited much controversy, including a condemnation from the Vatican (!), for its juxtaposition of Catholic iconography and sexuality. The Pop called for a boycott of the show, which forced Madonna to cancel one of the shows three Italian dates. Madonna filmed the show and backstage antics for the documentary “Truth or Dare.” Rolling Stone named the tour the “Greatest Concert of the 1990s.”
>>> November 6, 1990: Madonna has always been vocal about sex and sexuality, but she really started putting it out there in the early ‘90s. Because of its explicit sexuality, MTV banned the video, leading Madonna to release it as a video single (it went on to become the most successful video single ever). Filmed in the style of 1960s European art films, Madonna defended the video as a feminist act (and found support in scholars like Camille Paglia) and cried censorship. All told, the single was another No. 1 for M and helped propel the greatest hits set on which it appeared, The Immaculate Collection, to over 30 million in worldwide sales, making it the 25th most successful album ever.
>>> October 21, 1992: Madonna released her softcore coffee table book “Sex.” The book was a runaway hit, selling out its initial press run, but was highly controversial, leading many to wonder if Madonna had finally gone too far. The book was released in concert with the album Erotica, which was also a commercial success, though it did not sell as well as her previous efforts.
>>> December 25, 1996: After much of the controversy from her Erotica phase had subsided, Madonna starred in “Evita,” which won her a best actress Golden Globe Award. During production of the film, Madonna announced she was pregnant with her first child. On October 14, 1996, Madonna gave birth to Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon.
>>> March 3, 1998: Inspired by the birth of her daughter and her newfound interest in Kabbalah, Madonna hit the studio with producer William Orbit (as well as longtime collaborator Patrick Leonard) to record Ray of Light, her seventh studio album. The set reinvigorated her career and brought her long-overdue industry respect, nabbing five Grammy nominations (including Album and Record of the Year) and winning three awards, Pop Album of the Year among them.
>>> September 10, 1998: Madonna, who has more VMAs than any other artist (20), wins her first (and so far only) VMA for Video of the Year for “Ray of Light.”
>>> August 21, 2000: The title track to Madonna’s eighth studio album, Music, hits the charts and goes all the way to No. 1. When “Music” topped the Billboard chart on Sept. 16, 2000, it became Madonna’s first number one since “Take a Bow” in 1994, and gave her a number one single in three separate decades. The track earned a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year.
>>> June 9, 2001: “The Drowned World Tour” kicks off in Barcelona, Spain. The tour was Madonna’s first in eight years (she last toured behind Erotica with her “Girlie Show” tour in 1993). Madonna had originally intended to tour behind Ray of Light but had to delay the show after becoming pregnant with her second child, Rocco. She chose instead to launch “Drowned World” behind Music.
>>> August 28, 2003: Madonna opened the 2003 MTV VMAs by performing “Like a Virgin” with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera – both of whom were thought at the time to be the dueling successors to her pop throne. During the performance, Madonna kissed both Spears and Aguilera on the lips, igniting arguably the biggest controversy in the history of the VMAs (let us know if you agree by voting in our Most Outrageous VMA Moments poll … the kiss is currently neck and neck with another buzzed-about VMA kiss, that of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley in 1994).
>>> May 24, 2004: The “Re-Invention World Tour” kicks off in Los Angeles. The massive production, which sold out every show except one, played arenas and stadiums in North America and Europe, grossing $125 million, making it the top tour of 2004. As she did for her “Blond Ambition” tour, Madonna shot a documentary, “I’m Going To Tell You A secret,” telling the story of her life on the road.
>>> October 17, 2005: “Hung Up,” the lead single from Madonna’s tenth studio album Confessions on a Dance Floor, is released. Co-written and co-produced with Stuart Price, the song became Madonna’s 36th (!!) top ten single, tying her with Elvis Presley for the title of artist with the most top tens. Confessions debuted at the top of the Billboard album chart in November 2005 and inspired “The Confessions Tour,” which went on to become the top-grossing tour ever by a female artist with grosses exceeding $194 million (a record Madonna would break just a few years later).
>>> March 17, 2008: As singles often do these days based on digital sales, “4 Minutes” featuring Justin Timberlake entered the Billboard Hot 100 almost immediately after its release and when it did, Madonna broke her tie with Elvis to become the artist with the most top ten hits ever. Some of her other notable chart achievements: 48 top 40 hits, 12 number ones and 32 cumulative weeks spent at number one. Madonna is also the artist with the most number two hits (6).
>>> August 23, 2008: The “Sticky & Sweet Tour” kicked off in Cardiff, Wales, en route to hitting four continents (Europe, North America, South America and Asia) and grossing $408 million, more than any tour ever by a solo artist and making the show the fourth biggest tour of all time. Madonna performed for over 3.5 million fans in 32 countries.
The “Sticky & Sweet Tour” wrapped up on Sept. 2, 2009, in Tel Aviv, Isreal. Since then, Her Madgesty has released a greatest hits compilation but has mostly laid low on the music front. All that will change elater this year or early next year, when she releases her as-yet-untitled 12th studio album, which she is currently working on in London.
So happy birthday, Madonna! You changed the face of music, and pretty much every artist that has emerged since you broke onto the scene owes you a debt of gratitude for pushing the boundaries of what was possible for a pop star.
Have a martini and enjoy your big day. You earned it, girl!